Stories behind the themes: Transformation
By Tamara Christensen at 4:58 pm, Monday November 21 2011
Part 10 of 19 in the series the Omni project

Here we offer the third installment of an unfolding bibliography of secondary research that fueled our generation of themes for the Omni project. This time around we are focusing on the transformational role of technology in our everyday lives, both in terms of what is changing (us) and how, i.e. the process of moving ritualistically through the liminal space that sits between what (and how) we once did things and the activities that will become our daily doings. This theme captures not only the place between the old and the new, but also the processes of learning, relearning, and unlearning how to respond to the new and improved version of our lives that technology suggests possible.

Online Banking Bill Pay Changes Ahead [FastCompany.com] – Remember the last time you had to show up in person at your bank to conduct business? Yeah, me neither. Remember the last time you had a confounding online banking moment trying to transfer funds to or from one account or bank to another (be it yours or someone else’s)? Yep, me, too! We appear to be wading through the growing pains associated with a transition from institutionally-focused financial rituals to customer-driven (and designed) online personal financing that is largely institutionally-agnostic.

While consumers like seeing all their finances in one friendly place, they don’t like the fact that they can’t do anything about it there–namely pay those bills or move money between accounts–using the same site or app. That capability is gradually coming, with the help of new finance technology, business models and willing, often smaller, banks.

Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age [Chronicle.com] – Cathy Davidson puts her teaching (and learning to teach in this era of “This is Your Brain on the Internet”) under the microscope in an exploration of how technology is impacting the collaborative nature of knowledge including how it is consumed, crowdsourced, created, communicated, and (perhaps most fascinating of all) subjected to criticism by various stakeholders. Here we can begin to see that a focus on traditional ways of learning has created attentional blindness to the opportunities for new ways of learning.

Unfortunately, current practices of our educational institutions-and workplaces-are a mismatch between the age we live in and the institutions we have built over the last 100-plus years. The 20th century taught us that completing one task before starting another one was the route to success. Everything about 20th-century education, like the 20th-century workplace, has been designed to reinforce our attention to regular, systematic tasks that we take to completion. Attention to task is at the heart of industrial labor management, from the assembly line to the modern office, and of educational philosophy, from grade school to graduate school.

A Walk to Remember to Remember [Full-Stop.net] – Anyone who has seen the video of the woman walking into the mall fountain because her eyes are glued to her phone (there’s another walk to remember!) has witnessed the physical (and perhaps more experientially concrete) impact of technology on walking. This piece roots around in some of the more metaphorical and abstract ways that technology has transformed rituals and narratives of bipedal locomotion.

“When I walk,” he describes, “my impression is that a digital sensibility overtakes me [-] the places or circumstances that have drawn my attention take the form of Internet links.” Referring to associative memory as being like hypertext is a perfect example of how the significance and description of walking changes in reference to the time and culture in which it is grounded. The metaphors we use to characterize things we don’t understand often change with relation to extant technology. For example the human mind once described as a tablet is now popularly referred to as being like a computer. But this use of figurative language also demonstrates how metaphor shapes the way we perceive and experience the physical world.

In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores [NYT.com] – Technology is obviously changing our institutions and, here again,education seems to be a classic meme. There is a defined dream that computers will fix THIS – every generation of tech, from the first Apple PCs to now iPads, are all hailed as “THIS is the thing that will truly, radically improve it!”; but in our measurement-focused education systems, evidence points to “no”.

To be sure, test scores can go up or down for many reasons. But to many education experts, something is not adding up – here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.

The Gen Y Guide to Collaborative Consumption [Shareable.net] - Technology is enabling alternatives to the mainstream economy that are self-created and subvert standard modes of exchange and value. This easy-to-use DIY guide is a road map for leaving behind ancient rituals of consumption in favor of practices that values possibilities of use over possession.

American youth are slowly realizing that the old system is broken, and no longer holds the answer to all their dreams and desires. We’re discovering that stable, satisfying careers can be found outside the offices and factories around which our parents and grandparents built their lives. We’re acknowledging that the pursuit of bigger, better, and faster things have plunged our country into a time of despair and difficulty. We’re convinced that business as usual isn’t an option any longer–but what’s the alternative?

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